Zack Snyder’s ‘Justice League’ Is an Improvement on the Theatrical Release

After several years and considerable pressure from fans, we’re finally getting to see Justice League as director Zack Snyder intended it to be. This four-hour epic of a superhero film has been so highly anticipated that it might be impossible to live up to the expectations of all but the most die-hard fans. That’s not to say that Zack Snyder’s Justice League is disappointing, though. Compared to the original theatrical release, it is anything but.

This cut of the film is almost completely unique and quickly sets itself apart from what came before it. Snyder cuts the pace down and lingers on the fine details, especially when it comes to characters and world-building. Where Cyborg (Ray Fisher) and The Flash (Ezra Miller) were previously overlooked, here we have lengthy scenes dedicated to looking into their lives and establishing their motivations. Even familiar characters like Diana (Gal Gadot) receive their own (re)introductory moments, where we are shown in epic fashion what these heroes are capable of individually before they even team-up.

The first half of Snyder’s film could not be more clearly focused on the Justice League itself and the lives of the people that are part of it. Granted, Barry Allen is still the comic relief, but he is also provided with a backstory that makes him empathetic, with an underlying maturity. Cyborg is the character whose representation is most improved, though. Fisher’s superhero gets an awful lot more screentime, which explores the psychological and physical trauma he experienced before the events of the film. He is by far the most humanised hero, and Fisher gives a real stand-out performance with plenty of emotional depth.

While all this attention given to the characters might make Zack Snyder’s Justice League sound slow, the pacing is fairly well balanced. Among the exposition is an abundance of action. The battles are a real feast for the eyes, and there are many of them, which happen both in the present and in flashbacks. The best of them take place on an epic scale, with many warriors facing off against an incredibly powerful foe. The film stands out from other superhero films because of the sense of grandeur that it builds around itself. It wants to be an epic, something considered on the same level as the extended editions of The Lord of the Rings. This is obvious from the runtime but is consolidated by the grand scale of the battles, the swelling score, and the attention given to sharing the history of its world.

The epic feel of the film remains for the whole four hours of its runtime. Sadly, the carefully balanced pace does not. Roughly the last third of it is dominated by endless fight scenes. These would usually be exciting, but when you’ve been watching a film for three hours already it’s hard for the last act to properly hold your attention. Even for a massive fan of cinema, four hours is an incredibly long time to be watching the same film, and I’m sure many people will struggle to view this in one sitting. This is Zack Snyder’s Justice League‘s biggest flaw –- it cannot justify its exorbitant length. The fact that the last hour is comprised of fight after fight makes it seem like this part of the plot has been dragged out to meet an arbitrary number. There is an awful lot added to Snyder’s version of the film, but the overall plot remains unchanged, and there is not enough substance to keep us engrossed for as long as it wants us to be.

On the whole, the Snyder Cut is a huge improvement on the theatrical release. However, the most intriguing part of it is the epilogue. Not only do we see what the Justice League are up to, but we also get a glimpse into the future films that Snyder had planned. Admittedly, they are awkwardly tacked-on to the end of the epilogue and feel more like they should be post-credits scenes, but there are some incredibly exciting possibilities revealed to us. We get to briefly see into a potential future of the DCEU, one where even Jared Leto’s Joker looks promising. We can only hope that Warner Bros are open to introducing multiple timelines into their cinematic universe because Snyder’s vision of the future is too exciting to bury.

Zack Snyder’s Justice League is an ambitious film and a great improvement on the theatrical release. It does its characters justice, provides exciting battles and spectacle, and builds the world of the DCEU. But as grand as Snyder’s vision is, there’s no reason for a superhero film to be four hours long.

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